Jemma Watts

an untold story in an open space

As we journey through life, there are so many untold stories that hang in the air. In every open space, down every street, on every corner – unspoken messages that we interpret in our own way. Is it safe, do we cross, sit down, keep moving? Is it calm, transient, awe-inspiring, disturbing? A new place that you have never been to before can feel familiar. New homes can make us feel happy or anxious. Signs, systems and architecture are woven together, creating a network of instructions that affect our minds and our instincts.

Unpicking the threads of our environment and amplifying the words and meanings from different spaces and scenarios is artist Jemma Watts, whose work demonstrates the life and history of a space in its present form.

Using a range of techniques and materials, Jemma is interested in the field of psychogeography.

“It’s a concept that an environment has an effect on someone’s mood, thought processes and behaviours,“ she says. “It’s about looking at why one space feels one way, and another feels another. Why is it that some people go into a building and say it feels friendly and others say they don’t like it?”

A keen illustrator, Jemma strives towards everything creative and has a variety of outlets including printing, ceramics, photography, and she also runs a workshop at the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts. Her most recent projects have focused on spaces – both urban and in the wilderness.

“I love the sense of space and like to pick out something in particular about it,” she says.

Working with ceramics at Studio Do, Jemma has been exploring new ways to create pieces from clay, allowing room for textures and intricate lines to provide detail and focus.

“With my ceramics I have been doing little crags of landscape and they always have something man-made on them. They are generally memories of places I have been, from Cornwall to the Great Wall of China,” she says.

“I really enjoy the 3D-ness of ceramics, I find it mesmerising. I work on my pieces at the studio from 9am til 5pm and I wonder where the time goes. I enjoy the problem solving element of it. I think about what I want to make and then I’ll come up with different ways of doing it.”

Using an electric kiln, Jemma chooses to simplify the process each time to make the end product as raw as possible.

“I am more interested in the clay rather than the glaze and I’m working on making them even more simple as I go along.”

For Takeaway Art, Jemma has made a selection of down-scaled fragments of road that capture the textures, intricacies and messages of modern day life in an urban setting.

“They’re broken off like a piece that has been removed from the road but on a smaller scale.

“I made the texture using actual textures from roads. I went out and took imprints using soft clay.

“I find them really exciting and I hope other people do as well. I started by making plates but textually the fragments are more interesting,” she says.

“It’s about finding compositions that I really enjoy. I love physically breaking the edges – you do it when the clay is almost dry which creates a realistic effect of broken edges of concrete. It’s what I imagine broken pieces of tarmac to look like.

“With ceramics I just get really lost in the moment, it’s really meditative – just focusing on that thing and that thing alone.”

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